In 2023, we helped US employers overcome a host of new challenges across the employment law landscape. Many companies started the year with difficult cost-cutting decisions and hybrid work challenges. More recently, employers faced challenges around intense political discourse boiling over in the workplace. We’ve worked hard to keep our clients ahead of the curve on these
New York in the summer: warm days, Shakespeare in the Park, visits to the beach, and the end of the New York State legislative session–which often means a few surprises for New York employers. This summer, not only do employers have to contend with New York’s amended WARN Act regulations and the enforcement of New York City’s Automated Employment Decision Tool law (both now effective), they also have to keep a close eye on four New York State bills that have cleared both houses of the state legislature and could be signed by Governor Hochul–including one that would arguably be the nation’s broadest ban on employee noncompete agreements. We highlight two changes–and four that could be coming down the pike–New York employers should pay close attention to this summer.
Two to know
1. Amendments to New York’s WARN Act regulations now in effect.
New York State’s proposed amendments to its Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act regulations were adopted on June 21 and are now in effect. The definition of a covered employer has been expanded, remote employees must now be included in the threshold count, certain notices must include more information or be provided electronically, and exceptions for providing notice have changed (among other modifications). In addition, there’s a new York State Department of Labor WARN portal for employers to use for “a more streamlined user experience.” Want the details on the WARN Act regulation changes and some helpful tips for employers? See our prior blog here.
2. Enforcement of New York City’s Automated Employment Decision Tool law began July 5.
New York City’s Local Law 144 prohibits employers and employment agencies from using an automated employment decision tool to substantially assist certain employment decisions unless the tool has been subject to a bias audit within one year of the use of the tool, information about the bias audit is publicly available, and certain notices have been provided to employees or job candidates. Violations of the provisions of the law are subject to a civil penalty. Enforcement of the law began July 5, and employers need to be diligent. For those who haven’t done so yet, the first (and immediate) step is to take inventory of HR tech tools. Legal should partner with HR and IT to determine whether the company uses automated employment decision tools to make any employment decisions in a manner that triggers the law. See our prior blog here for additional steps to take, as well as further details on the law, penalties, and some practical tips for employers.
Four to watch
1. New York could become the fifth state to ban employee noncompetes.
On June 21, the New York State Assembly passed S3100 (already passed by the New York State Senate), which will be the most restrictive state-level ban on employers’ use of noncompetes to date if signed into law by Governor Hochul.
Under the bill, every contract that restrains anyone from engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind is void to the extent of such restraint.
The ban: The bill does not permit employers (or their agents) to “seek, require, demand, or accept a non-compete agreement” from a “covered individual.”
- A “non-compete agreement” is any agreement (or clause in an agreement) between an employer and a “covered individual” that prohibits or restricts the individual from obtaining employment after the conclusion of employment with the employer.
- A “covered individual” is “any other person” who performs work or services for another person on such terms and conditions that puts them in a position of economic dependence on and under an obligation to perform duties for that other person–regardless of whether they are employed under a contract of employment.
Given recent developments and trends in the United States relating to restricted covenants (especially non-competes), companies should take another look at any restrictive covenants included in equity award agreements.
To learn more about the possible approaches companies can take to deal with restrictive covenants for employees outside the United States, read our recent NASPP guest blog post.
Continue Reading Reevaluating Restrictive Covenants in Equity Award Agreements
Special thanks to Maura Ann McBreen.
The short answer is “no.”
Typically the enforceability of non-compete clauses has been subject to state law and more recently, many states have imposed limitations on the enforceability of non-competes. Some states, like California, North Dakota and Oklahoma, ban them entirely. However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on January 5, 2023 issued a proposed rule that would significantly restrict the use of non-compete clauses between employers and employees as a matter of federal law. The FTC said that the proposed rule would apply to independent contractors and anyone who works for an employer, whether paid or unpaid. It would also generally prohibit employers from using non-compete clauses and make it illegal for an employer to:
- Enter into or attempt to enter into a non-compete with a worker;
- Maintain a non-compete;
- Represent to a worker that he or she is subject to a non-compete under certain circumstances.
The proposed rule would generally not apply to other types of employment restrictions, like non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements, unless such other employment restrictions were so broad as to function like non-competes. Since this function test is clearly open to interpretation, the reach of the proposed rule may be further expanded.Continue Reading My Company Requires Employees Sign Non-competes. Should We Panic Due To The FTC’s Proposed Rule?
Employers have been keeping a close watch for rulemaking and action by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) restricting non-competes. Earlier this month, the FTC answered the Executive Order’s call with enforcement activities and a proposed rule signaling a considerable effort to prioritize employer-employee non-compete covenants as…
Over the past week, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) took a major step to expand competition policy deeper into labor markets.
It’s been a demanding year in New York for employers. New York employers have had to continuously pivot to meet obligations under new laws and requirements in 2022, with no end in sight as we step into 2023. From New York’s new electronic monitoring law, to New York City’s salary and pay range disclosure requirements, to the newly-delayed enforcement of NYC’s automated employment decision tools law (a brief sigh of relief for employers), new laws are certain to make for a busy 2023 for New York employers. Here are 10 changes employers should know now as we get the ball rolling in 2023.
1. NYC Employers Using Automated Employment Decision Tools Now Have Until April 15, 2023 to Meet New Obligations
The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) granted New York City employers a happy holiday by announcing a delay of enforcement of its automated employment decision tools law (Local Law 144 of 2021) until April 15, 2023.
Until the announcement, New York City employers who use artificial intelligence in employment decision-making were faced with new requirements beginning January 1, 2023–including a prohibition against using automated employment decision tools (AEDTs) unless they took a number of specific steps prior to doing so, not the least of which would be conducting a bias audit of their AEDTs.
On December 15, 2022, DCWP published revised proposed rules for Local Law 144, making several changes to initial proposed rules published by DCWP September 23, 2022.
The initial proposed rules defined or clarified some terms (including “independent auditor,” “candidate for employment,” and “AEDT”), set forth the form and requirements of the bias audit, and provided guidance on notice requirements.
After comments from the public on the initial proposed rules, and after a November 4, 2022 public hearing, the DCWP modified the proposed rules, with changes including:
- Modifying the definition of AEDT (according to DCWP, “to ensure it is focused”);
- Clarifying that an “independent auditor” may not be employed or have a financial interest in an employer or employment agency seeking to use or continue to use an AEDT, or in a vendor that developed or distributed the AEDT;
- Revising the required calculation to be performed where an AEDT scores candidates;
- Clarifying that the required “impact ratio” must be calculated separately to compare sex categories, race/ethnicity categories, and intersectional categories;
- Clarifying the types of data that may be used to conduct a bias audit;
- Clarifying that multiple employers using the same AEDT can rely upon the same bias audit as long as they provide historical data (if available) for the independent auditor to consider in such bias audit; and
- Clarifying that an AEDT may not be used if its most recent bias audit is more than one year old.
DCWP will hold a second public hearing on the proposed rules on January 23, 2022.
For more on the law, see our recent blog Happy Holidays! Enforcement of New York City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools Law Delayed to April 15, 2023.
2. New York Employers with “No Fault” Attendance Policies Subject to Penalties for Disciplining Employees Who Take Protected Leave
Beginning February 20, 2023, New York employers with absence control policies who discipline employees for taking protected leave under any federal, state or local law will be subject to penalties.
Signed by Governor Kathy Hochul on November 21, 2022, S1958A (which amends Section 215 of the New York Labor Law (NYLL)) targets employer policies that attempt to control employee absences by assessing points or “demerits” or docking time from a leave bank when an employee is absent, regardless of whether or not the absence is permissible under applicable law. The amendment prohibits employers in New York from taking these actions when employees take a legally protected absence. Though the law does not prohibit attendance policies that include a penalty point system, legally protected absences cannot be used to deduct from these point systems.
Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against any employee that makes a complaint that the employer violated the law, and violations can come with sizable penalties. In addition to enforcement by the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL), NYLL Section 215 provides a private cause of action for current and former employees to recover monetary damages from employers who have violated Section 215. Monetary damages include back pay, liquidated damages and attorneys’ fees in addition to civil penalties that can be issued by NYSDOL of up to $10,000 for the first violation and $20,000 for repeat violations.
- Employers who currently have policies that assess points or demerits against employees for taking absences under applicable law should review and update the policies to be compliant with the law.
- Employers should train HR professionals, managers and supervisors on the new law.
3. Employers Must Provide Pay Ranges in Job Postings under New York City Pay Transparency Law Now–and under New York State Pay Transparency Law Beginning September 17, 2023
New York City employers are already feeling the impact of having to meet the requirements of New York City’s new pay transparency law (Local Law 32 and its amendment), which went into effect on November 1, 2022. Now, employers all across New York State will also have to comply with salary transparency requirements. Governor Hochul signed New York State’s salary transparency bill (S9427A) into law on December 21, 2022. Employers should begin to prepare now for the law’s September 17, 2023 effective date.
New York City’s law requires New York City employers with four or more employees (with at least one working in New York City) to disclose salary and hourly ranges in any advertisements for jobs, promotions, or transfer opportunities. (See our prior blogs here and here–and for a deeper look at salary and pay range disclosure requirements in job postings across the US, watch our video Employers: All Eyes on Salary and Pay Range Disclosure in US Job Postings).
Similar to New York City’s law, New York State’s law also requires employers with four or more employees to include a compensation range in all advertisements for new jobs, promotions and transfer opportunities. It’s not clear at this time whether all four employees must be employed within New York State, or whether an employer is covered even if employees are located elsewhere. The New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) is authorized to promulgate regulations to clarify the law, and it is anticipated that guidance will be issued before the law’s effective date.
Employment agencies and recruiters–but not temporary employment agencies–are also covered by each law.
Across the world, trade secrets are becoming increasingly important. As companies align workforce transformation, manage supply chain operations and balance the needs of their digital transformation journey, new strategies are required for the identification, protection and enforcement of their most valuable, complex and market-differentiating trade secrets.
In this series of bite-sized videos, hear from Baker…
New state and federal limits on post-employment restrictive covenants mean employers must stay on top of more than just vaccination policies or the logistics of office reopenings. The swath of new and on-the-horizon legislation aimed at limiting the enforceability of post-employment non-compete agreements deserves employers’ attention too. Part One of our blog post series on restrictive covenants addressed the intersection of remote work and state non-compete laws. Now, in Part Two, we summarize recent updates to state non-compete laws, pending state legislation that could impact non-competes, and new federal-level activity aimed at limiting non-competes.
Colorado recently raised the stakes for violations of its non-compete law. Effective March 1, 2022, under SB 21-271, a person who violates Colorado’s non-compete statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor.
Colorado’s non-compete statute (C.R.S. section 8-2-113) voids agreements that restrict trade, such as non-competition and non-solicitation of customers covenants, unless they fall within a specific statutory exception: (i) a contract for the purchase or sale of a business or its assets; (ii) a contract for protecting trade secrets; (iii) a contract provision recovering education or training expenses associated with an employee who has been with an employer for less than two years; or (iv) a restriction on executive or management personnel or each of their professional staff. As of March 1, 2022, a person who violates this statute commits a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail and / or a fine of up to $750.
Many questions remain about the enforcement of this amendment, such as who will face ultimate liability for the employer (e.g., in-house counsel, HR staff, line managers, etc.). And though there is no indication that the new law is retroactive, Colorado employers were subject to criminal penalties for a violation of Colorado’s non-compete law even prior to SB 21-271 being passed, under C.R.S. section 8-2-115. SB 21-271 repealed C.R.S. section 8-2-115 while simultaneously inserting language into the non-compete statute itself making a violation a class 2 misdemeanor. It remains to be seen whether this is simple statutory consolidation, or a signal that Colorado plans to increase enforcement of violations of its non-compete statute. Employers should review their non-compete agreements and internal policies regarding which employees are required to sign such agreements to make sure they are in compliance with this new law.Continue Reading The Only Constant is Change: Recent (and Potential) Changes in State and Federal Non-Compete Legislation
The writing is on the wall: remote work is here to stay. According to data collected by Ladders, three million professional jobs in the US went permanently remote in the fourth quarter 2021 alone. By the end of 2021, 18 percent of all professional jobs in the US were remote. Ladders projects that number will be close to 25 percent by the end of 2022. Of course, this leaves employment lawyers and HR professionals wondering — what employment laws apply to our distributed workforce?
One particularly thorny issue facing employers in this context is the permissibility of post-termination non-competition agreements. Non-compete laws and their requirements differ greatly from state to state. For example, in Illinois, one of the requirements is that the employee must earn at least $75,000 annually in order to enter into an enforceable post-termination non-compete, but in Oregon, that minimum annual income threshold increases to $100,533 — and that same employee would be subject to no income threshold if Missouri law applied. On the other hand, in Colorado, where post-termination non-competes are generally unlawful, the employer could soon face misdemeanor criminal liability for seeking to enforce an unlawful post-termination non-compete against any employee, and in California, the employer could be exposed to compensatory and punitive damages if a claim is accompanied by other deemed tortious conduct (e.g., interference with the employee’s future employment prospects by seeking to enforce the unlawful agreement).
In this post, we analyze how remote work further muddles the already complicated landscape of post-termination non-competes and how employers can best navigate this complex backdrop.
What law applies? Guidance from recent case law
One issue arising out of remote work is knowing what state’s law will apply when it comes to the enforceability of non-compete restrictions. With remote work, long gone are the days where an employer can be relatively certain that the state where an employee is located at the beginning of the employment relationship will be the same state that employee is living and working in at the end of the employment relationship. As a result, when the need to enforce non-compete restrictions arises, the parties may dispute what state’s law should apply to the non-compete (e.g., the state where the employee was located when they entered into the contract, the state where the employee began work for the employer, or the state whether the employee was living or working at the end of the employment relationship).Continue Reading Navigating The Intersection Of Remote Work And State-Specific Post-Termination Non-Compete Laws